Wausau Helps Secure National Institute of Health's Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases with a Blast-Mitigating Curtainwall

Wausau Window and Wall Systems has fabricated a blast-resistant curtainwall for the National Institute of Health (NIH) Center for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., opening this summer. When fully operational, the C.W. Bill Young Center's 84,000-square-foot research building will house approximately 250 laboratory, administrative and support staff.

The four-story center conducts and supports research to understand, treat and ultimately prevent the myriad infectious, immunologic and allergic diseases that threaten hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Given the nature of the work, the building has multiple layers of safety and security in place: It is located within the secured perimeter of the NIH campus, set back from both internal and public access roads.

The exterior structure is reinforced to withstand explosive blasts. Assisting with this effort, more than 25,000-square-feet of blast-mitigating curtainwall plus an additional 1,784-square-foot screenwall was provided by Wausau, finished in a clear anodize by Linetec, and installed by glazing contractor Harmon, Inc.

The building's overall design was conceived by CUH2A Architects, developed by Spaulding & Slye, and built by Whiting-Turner Construction Company, Inc.

"Our number one priority is to protect the inhabitants and the contents of this building," emphasizes Whiting-Turner's project manager Brian Schmitz. "With a typical curtainwall system and a blast at a distance accessible by a vehicle - say in the form of a truck bomb - it's not the blast that will cause the most injury and death; it's the surrounding materials. The glass, the metal, the debris act as projectiles and can tear up anyone and everything in their path."

To alleviate such concerns, Wausau's high-performance, blast-mitigating SuperWall system was repeatedly and successfully tested to meet the NIH's requirements prior to installation and passed additional, rigorous inspections since the facility's construction was completed in December 2005.

The Center will add 14,300-square-feet of biosafety Level 3 laboratory space to the campus and enables scientists to expand biodefense research and to pursue scientific opportunities in emerging infectious diseases that have been delayed or deferred because of the lack of adequate high-containment research facilities. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the lack of such facilities has delayed the development of vaccines for naturally occurring diseases that threaten the United States, such as that caused by West Nile virus.

Having this facility on the NIH campus takes advantage of the infrastructure, both physical and intellectual, present in NIAID's existing intramural research program. The Institute estimates it would take at least 10 years and more than $1 billion to duplicate this basic and clinical infrastructure elsewhere.

The center's design also is expected to accommodate future changes. "As priorities in infectious disease research change, as they inevitably will, we can realign the space allocated to the different research programs located in the facility," notes Kathryn C. Zoon, Ph.D., director of NIAID's Division of Intramural Research.

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